Brandon Aiyuk: Comparing 49ers wide receiver to Jerry Rice

Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Brandon Aiyuk has come close to breaking a record held by 49ers legend Jerry Rice. Other similarities can be seen between the two.

San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had an incredible season for his first year in red and gold. Despite playing only 12 games due to injury and COVID-19, he still managed to lead the team in touchdown receptions and came within 179 yards of breaking Hall of Famer Jerry Rice‘s record for the most receiving yards by a rookie receiver in franchise history.

Rice and Aiyuk’s rookie stats are very similar with the latter actually fairing better than Rice in some categories. Aiyuk had more touchdowns with five his rookie season compared to Rice’s three. Aiyuk also had more receptions with 60 compared to Rice’s 49 receptions his rookie year back in 1985.

Aiyuk also had a better average-yards per gain, averaging 62.3 yards per contest whereas Rice averaged  57.9.

So this raises the question: Had Aiyuk played all 16 games, would he have broken Rice’s record for most receiving yards in franchise history by a rookie?

The answer would almost certainly be yes because Aiyuk’s average of 62.3 YPG over the four games he missed would have given him 249 of the only 179 yards needed to break Rice’s record.

Jerry Rice has even compared Brandon Aiyuk’s rookie season to his own. In a podcast episode of 95.7’s The Game’s The Morning Roast, Jerry Rice was a guest and was asked about Brandon Aiyuk’s rookie season. He had this to say:

“It’s just like my rookie season,” Rice said. “You try to find your way, where you fit in. You try to get acclimated to the playbook and also what you’re going to be doing on the football field. And I think next year, he’s going to take a major, major leap. And he’s going to be more productive and put more points on the board.”

You can hear the full interview with Rice here:

Aiyuk was just learning the offense last year and became more of a prominent weapon as the season progressed. The rookie out of ASU was an exciting player to watch the more comfortable he became in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

This upcoming year, he will know what his place is in the offense. The team has seen what he can do, and he will become a favorite target for whoever is under center for the 49ers in 2021.

According to CBS Sports, when Aiyuk was asked about the possibility of breaking Rice’s record, he was humbled but more focused on the games at hand saying, “Going into a game, my mindset is that I’m going to have 200 yards — and then go from there. The mindset is not to worry about that record, but to have the perfect game, which I have yet to do.”

Not only was Aiyuk a threat in the passing game, but he found his way to the end zone on the ground as well.

Both Aiyuk and Rice have shown to be dangerous threats gaining yards after the catch. While Aiyuk only has one season under his belt, he has shown flashes of what he can do once he gets in the open field. Aiyuk and Shanahan are an amazing combination together because Shanahan is an offensive mastermind at creating lanes for receivers to get open. Along with fellow Niners wide receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle, Aiyuk is the newest member of the “YAC Bros.” All three players have tremendous skills to run after the catch is secured, and Aiyuk will be a huge addition to that.

Brandon Aiyuk is still a young player and will have plenty of work ahead of him if he plans to compete with Jerry Rice and become one of the greats, but he sure is off to a great start with the Niners and is co-signed by the G.O.A.T himself.

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